As you are well aware, before you enter any screenwriting contest, you need to have your screenplay read by someone else; a friend, professional service or mentor. While we all would like to have that person gush over our script, what you are really seeking is constructive criticism – honest feedback – concerning your work.
How do you utilize any critique of your work to your advantage? There are Four Simple Steps that allow you to read between the lines to increase your chances of winning that next contest.
Step One, before submitting your screenplay to anyone, let them know specifically what you are asking of them. Simply saying, “Could you read my script” isn’t enough, it’s too vague.
As an example, if you were to ask me to read your script, and you follow up with a call in a week or two, the conversation may go something like this.
“Did you read my script?” you ask.
“I did,” is my reply.
“Well, what did you think?”
“It’s good, needs some work, but it’s good.”
“Did you like the story?”
“Yeah, it was interesting.”
“What about the characters?”
“They were good, you could develop them a little more, though.”
See where this is going? All you asked me to do was “read your script”. Originally, there was no mention of what you wanted me to do. Then, you throw me curve balls by asking questions that I may not be prepared to answer. Therefore, I’m going to play it safe.
This is what I mean by being specific. Your request should be something along the lines of, “Could you read my script and give me some honest feedback? I want to know what you think of my story, does it have a flow to it? Is it an interesting read? Also, let me know what you think of the characters, do they come across as real people? Finally, if you could give me feedback on my dialogue; does it sound like how people actually talk? That would be appreciated.”
Does that sound like a huge request? Not really, because you are actually telling that person what you would like them to do, there’s no guess work. By being specific, you won’t be putting them in an awkward position of having to sugar-coat their responses because you are indicating that you are prepared to accept an honest evaluation of your script. A nice thing to do is offer to discuss your screenplay while you take them out to lunch. This will guarantee a quicker turn around on your feedback!
Step Two is a little more complicated. Once you get your feedback how do you really process what they are saying? Let’s say you submitted your script to a production company and you are able to get an assessment of your work.
Note: Most production companies don’t have the time to give you any feedback. If they do, listen to what they are saying and don’t argue with them. After all, they could’ve just given you a firm “No thanks, we’re not interested.” Instead, thank them for speaking with you. Many times this will help you establish a relationship because you’ve demonstrated professionalism.
For example, let’s say that a certain production company had a problem with the overall story. They felt the script was a bit too long at 122 pages, and felt it needed to be trimmed down. It’s up to you to decide what to do with this information. Forget what they said and move on, or figure out how to deliver a quality product according to what they are looking for?
Next post, we will finish up the final two steps in accepting criticism, and making it work for you.